Panchayat Development Officer says of the 50 families from Jampad village in Bidar taluk, around 40 have MNREGA cards.

“They want us to leave the village for good. That is the message,” says Saidappa, a Dalit from Jampad village in Bidar taluk.

The members of his community have become victims of social boycott by the ‘caste’ Hindus.

“For nearly two weeks now, farmers have stopped employing us. Some of them have even sent back women who went to pluck weeds,” he said.

He complained that the farmers were sending jeeps to villages in the neighbouring State to get labourers from the Reddy and Welma communities.

“A farmer told us he would not employ us, even it meant that his crops would not be harvested,” said Raghunath Narasappa, another resident of the Ambedkar colony.

The boycott has been hard on the 250 Dalits from 50 families in Jampad as none of them owns land. There is only one government employee from the Dalit community here.

The Dalits say trouble started last year when they requested the gram panchayat to provide land for the Ambedkar Bhavan, a community hall to be constructed under the local area development fund of the then MLA, Rahim Khan.

The Chillargi Gram Panchayat granted land and Mr. Khan released Rs. 5 lakh for the building. Meanwhile, some village residents objected saying the land could be used for a bus shelter or to park vehicles.

Under pressure, the gram panchayat secretary, Ejaz Siddique, cancelled the allotment of land. Some youth approached the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti leaders, who approached the district administration for permission to build the bhavan.

After this, the Nirmiti Kendra began work on the bhavan, but this was stopped too. “This time, they filled up the pits that we had dug for erecting pillars,” said Tippanna Parabhanna.

“The next day, village residents held a meeting at the Hanuman temple where they resolved not to employ us. The village Dalapati, Govind Reddy Police Patil, announced that anyone who employed a Dalit would be fined Rs. 5,000 and beaten up with slippers,” Mr. Raghunath said. We have never been allowed inside the temple, he alleged.

Mr. Patil, however, denied this and said: “I have neither made any announcement nor has the village decided not to employ the Dalits.” Fayazuddin Patel, a civil contractor, said the DSS leaders were trying to vitiate the environment in the village. We have been living peacefully for decades. But now outsiders are trying to disrupt peace, he said.

Mangala Kamble, Panchayat Development Officer, said the government had begun pitting and planting works under the MNREGA after complaints from the Dalits.

“Of the 50 families, around 40 have job cards. We will register the rest now,” she said.

Deputy Commissioner P.C. Jaffer steps would be taken to protect the Dalits and end the boycott. Ambedkar Bhavans are public buildings of the Social Welfare Department built on government land. The entry is not restricted to the Dalits. If the site granted by the panchayat earlier is on government land, we will go ahead with the construction, Dr. Jaffer said.

We will issue ration cards and pension to the needy. We will explore options of land grants and give them cattle, he said.

K. Thiyagarajan, Superintendent of Police, said the solution to the problem will be explored in a joint meeting with the officials of the Revenue Department and zilla panchayat.

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